Holy Childhood of Jesus Church stands in a commanding location at the head of Main Street, visible to all who enter Harbor Springs from the east. It is a simple, Romanesque-influenced white-painted wooden gable church with a central steepled entrance and bell tower, a broach spire, and an apse. A fanlight is over the door and a small rose window is in the tower above the entrance. An arched appliqué of wood runs along the entablature beneath the cornices. The huge addition to the west changed the character of the 1892 church, and the Parish Hall/Multipurpose Building to the east overwhelms the historic church. Just northeast of the church is the site of the three-story brick school, demolished in 2007. Both the school and the church replaced earlier buildings associated with an Indian mission.
In the eighteenth century, Jesuit missionaries from the St. Joseph Mission for the Potawatomi and Miami, located over two hundred miles to the south, and from the Marquette Mission at St. Ignace, visited the Ottawa, who had moved to L'Arbre Croche, the shore area between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. In 1823 the Ottawa of L'Arbre Croche petitioned President James Monroe and Congress for a Christian minister. In order to separate Christian from non-Christian Ottawa, Father Peter de Jean transferred in 1829 a mission he had established two years earlier at Middle Village, L'Arbre Croche, to this site, present-day Harbor Springs.
Father de Jean and Native Americans built a log church and a rectory and school. The school was both a boarding and day school, with twenty-five boarders in its initial enrollment of sixty-three, who were taught in French reading, writing, arithmetic, and vocational skills. Under the Franciscan Fathers, who arrived in 1884, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who came in 1886, the school served L'Arbre Croche and missions in the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula until it closed in 1983. Holy Childhood of Jesus Church remained essentially a Native American mission until the early twentieth century. As the Euro-American population increased with the growth of logging camps and sawmills and with the seasonal arrival of resorters, the church began to serve these parishioners as well.